Patara - Soho
Chinese and East Asian
Named after the founder, the first Patara opened in 1990 and the company behind it now boasts four restaurants in London as well as branches elsewhere in Europe and Asia. There are close connections between the restaurants, including a dedicated food designer to monitor the food globally whilst also allowing for differences to reflect the local tastes. Testament to their fine food and service, Patara's Greek Street branch has been going strong for five years and I was keen to sample the delights of their renowned Thai cuisine.
We were greeted by Noon, the receptionist, who was a font of knowledge and happily guided us through the impressive Thai menu. Drinks were our first concern and, after a hard day at work, we passed up the wide selection of Old and New World wines for their inspiring cocktail menu. From a list of Thai-infused classics, we selected a mango Margarita and a pear and ginger Daiquiri to accompany our starters, a plate of miang guaytiew (rice paper rolls with prawns, crabmeat and five-spiced duck) - a moreish melange of Japanese and Chinese influences - plus the more traditional but equally tasty Thai fish and prawn cakes. Our main courses were sensational - my nua tom kati was an inventive combination of slow-braised beef with a coconut, lime, lemongrass and chilli sauce, and my companion waxed lyrical about the sea bass fillet chargrilled with herb curry and served in a banana leaf. Even the accompanying Gaba rice exceeded my expectations - a slightly sticky brown rice that made a healthy change from the more conventional jasmine or fried rice. To finish, we decided to share a chocolate pudding served with mango ice cream - bitter and sweet, comforting and refreshing all at the same time. The meal was suitably rounded off with some refreshing jasmine tea, prettily presented in a glass tea pot with a floating ball of jasmine - just one of the many delightful touches so typical of Patara. Sipping our tea we were curious to know more about the sala Thai. One of the many friendly waiters informed us that this is a pavilion for royalty, or those of noble birth, to relax in whilst taking afternoon tea. I can think of no better analogy to sum up the Patara experience - as well as offering food fit for nobility, the restaurant guarantees a relaxing evening where every effort is made to make you feel like an honoured guest.